In an interview with the Telegraph journalist Tristram Fane Saunders, Iron Fist actor Finn Jones described the limited time that the Netflix and Marvel Studios production team set aside to practice the martial arts choreography required:
[H]e [Finn Jones] only had three weeks to train before filming. “Unfortunately, with the filming schedule, I wasn’t given as much time as I would have liked to continue the training.” Shooting for 12 or 14 hours a day took its toll. “I was learning those fight scenes just 15 minutes before we shot them, because that was the schedule… It would be 2am, 3am, I’d just done a long day of work, and usually the stunt department would come up and say ‘Hey, right, we’ve got this huge 30 person fight and you’ve got to learn it right now.’ So I was learning it on the spot, within 15-20 minutes, and then shooting it. That was the reality for six months.”
This sort of tight schedule does not leave room for the show, ostensibly about the best martial artist in the Marvel Universe, to even attempt to match the standard of martial arts scenes set by some of the best martial arts films created and screened in the past decade. Namely, The Raid and its sequel The Raid 2. These are two intense films.
Comparing the martial arts scene planning in Iron Fist to the successful Raid films directed by Gareth Evans shows a road not taken by Netflix and Marvel Studios.
It is likely that casting actors with diverse backgrounds, and training in martial arts and combat practices, would have contributed to a better film experience overall. At the very least, it would have addressed the historical problems of race and bias associated with Iron Fist. In an interview with Fred Topel at Crave Oline (2014) Evans described the process of creating a martial arts fight scene:
Note: Silat is a style of Indonesian martial arts.
I think a lot of times it comes down to what the fighter’s background is. For Iko and Cecep [Arif Rahman] when they fight, obviously we use more pure Silat. Even then, different styles of Silat inside that fight. When it comes to Iko fighting in the prison riot against 15-20 people, those guys all come from different martial arts backgrounds. Once we figure out what their background is, we try to design their fighting skill to be relevant to what they study.
Had Marvel Studios and Netflix invested time and planning into casting actors experienced in martial artist, they could have produced scenes closer to the current standard of martial arts film – examples like The Raid and it’s sequel. Considering the high standard of direction and scene construction in other Marvel Studios work, this comes as a surprise.
You can read the complete interview with Gareth Evans at Crave Online
The Telegraph interview with Jones, despite the inflammatory title, offers a fair summary of the facts surrounding Marvel Studio’s and Netflix’s Iron Fist.